Picture drawn by Maggie Stiefvater, 2009. Header made by S.F. Robertson, 2010.

Monday, February 29, 2016

What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

What We Left Behind by Robin Talley
"Toni and Gretchen are the couple everyone envied in high school. They've been together forever. They never fight. They're deeply, hopelessly in love. When they separate for their first year at college—Toni to Harvard and Gretchen to NYU—they're sure they'll be fine. Where other long-distance relationships have fallen apart, theirs is bound to stay rock-solid.

The reality of being apart, though, is very different than they expected. Toni, who identifies as genderqueer, meets a group of transgender upperclassmen and immediately finds a sense of belonging that has always been missing, but Gretchen struggles to remember who she is outside their relationship.

While Toni worries that Gretchen won't understand Toni's new world, Gretchen begins to wonder where she fits in this puzzle. As distance and Toni's shifting gender identity begin to wear on their relationship, the couple must decide—have they grown apart for good, or is love enough to keep them together?"- summary from Amazon

I absolutely loved Talley's debut and it was really interesting to read her take now on a more modern relationship (as her first book took place in the beginning days of desegregation). The book shifts between Gretchen and Toni as they prepare for college and throughout their first year at their respective colleges, dealing with new experiences, thought processes, ideas and much more on their own apart from each other. Talley does a wonderful job getting into the head of each of them and providing some real obstacles (both self-imposed and actual) between them as they attempt to navigate a long-distance relationship. The cast of supporting characters come from all walks of life and provide for one of the most diverse books I've probably ever read. There's also a lot of information to be gleaned about understanding genderqueer people as well as all sorts of sexualities and identities and empathizing with their struggles. It's nice too to see a non-hetero relationship in a book already underway in the beginning and dealing with general issues alongside the lack of communication regarding Toni's introduction to other genderqueer people and other labels and her journey to understanding herself, how she feels, and how she presents herself to the world at large.

Overall, a fantastic second book and I am extremely eager to read more from Talley.

FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon
"My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He's tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster."- summary from Amazon

Such a fantastic, emotional, funny, fast read!! Yoon's debut is amazing.

FTC: Borrowed book from local library. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Remembrance by Meg Cabot

Remembrance by Meg Cabot
"You can take the boy out of the darkness.

But you can’t take the darkness out of the boy.

All Susannah Simon wants is to make a good impression at her first job since graduating from college (and since becoming engaged to Dr. Jesse de Silva).

But when she’s hired as a guidance counselor at her alma mater, she stumbles across a decade-old murder, and soon ancient history isn’t all that’s coming back to haunt her. Old ghosts as well as new ones are coming out of the woodwork, some to test her, some to vex her, and it isn’t only because she’s a mediator, gifted with second sight.

From a sophomore haunted by the murderous specter of a child, to ghosts of a very different kind—including Paul Slater, Suze’s ex, who shows up to make a bargain Suze is certain must have come from the Devil himself—Suze isn’t sure she’ll make it through the semester, let alone to her wedding night.

Suze is used to striking first and asking questions later. But what happens when ghosts from her past—including one she found nearly impossible to resist—strike first?

What happens when old ghosts come back to haunt you?

If you’re a mediator, you might have to kick a little ass."- summary from Amazon

I was so excited to read this latest Mediator series addition that I pretty much started reading it as soon as it was given to me last November by Meg herself. I absolutely loved being able to read a new Suze Simon adventure and be immersed back in Suze's sarcastic voice and her life with Jesse. It's really cool to read this book (and Royal Wedding last year) and seeing one of your favorite teen characters all grown up and how everyone else in her life grew up too and what they're all doing now. It was so much fun to catch up with everyone again. The central ghost mystery in the book was really interesting and took some crazy and dark turns throughout the novel. It was page-turning, to say the least. I really hope Meg does another book in this series (though I do also have the novella, Proposal, to read too if she doesn't) because I loved spending time with these characters again on a new adventure. I highly recommend reading this new book, and if you haven't read the Mediator series at all, please give it a go. It's such a fantastic, humorous, and scary series by an amazing author.

FTC: Received signed ARC from the author. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Friday, February 12, 2016

If You're Lucky by Yvonne Prinz

If You're Lucky by Yvonne Prinz
"When seventeen-year-old Georgia’s brother drowns while surfing halfway around the world in Australia, she refuses to believe that Lucky’s death was just bad luck. Lucky was smart. He wouldn’t have surfed in waters more dangerous than he could handle. Then a stranger named Fin arrives in False Bay, claiming to have been Lucky’s best friend. Soon Fin is working for Lucky’s father, charming Lucky’s mother, dating Lucky’s girlfriend. Georgia begins to wonder: Did Fin murder her brother in order to take over his whole life?

Determined to clear the fog from her mind in order to uncover the truth about Lucky’s death, Georgia secretly stops taking the medication that keeps away the voices in her head. She is certain she’s getting closer and closer to the truth about Fin, but as she does, her mental state becomes more and more precarious, and no one seems to trust what she’s saying.

As the chilling narrative unfolds, the reader must decide whether Georgia’s descent into madness is causing her to see things that don’t exist--or to see the deadly truth."- summary from Amazon

This was a really interesting, suspenseful book and the final sentence of the summary is very true- I began to wonder if this was all in Georgia's head or if there was something wrong with Fin. I was definitely leaning toward the latter because it seemed like the right course for the novel but Prinz does a pretty good job of providing that counterbalance.

FTC: Received hardcover from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Never Broken by Jewel

Never Broken by Jewel
"When Jewel’s first album, Pieces of You, topped the charts in 1995, her emotional voice and vulnerable performance were groundbreaking. Drawing comparisons to Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell, a singer-songwriter of her kind had not emerged in decades. Now, with more than thirty million albums sold worldwide, Jewel tells the story of her life, and the lessons learned from her experience and her music.

Living on a homestead in Alaska, Jewel learned to yodel at age five, and joined her parents’ entertainment act, working in hotels, honky-tonks, and biker bars. Behind a strong-willed family life with an emphasis on music and artistic talent, however, there was also instability, abuse, and trauma. At age fifteen, she moved out and tasked herself with a mission: to see if she could avoid being the kind of statistic that her past indicated for her future. Soon after, she was accepted to the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, and there she began writing her own songs as a means of expressing herself and documenting her journey to find happiness. Jewel was eighteen and homeless in San Diego when a radio DJ aired a bootleg version of one of her songs and it was requested into the top-ten countdown, something unheard-of for an unsigned artist. By the time she was twenty-one, her debut had gone multiplatinum.

There is much more to Jewel’s story, though, one complicated by family legacies, by crippling fear and insecurity, and by the extraordinary circumstances in which she managed to flourish and find happiness despite these obstacles. Along her road of self-discovery, learning to redirect her fate, Jewel has become an iconic singer and songwriter. In Never Broken she reflects on how she survived, and how writing songs, poetry, and prose has saved her life many times over. She writes lyrically about the natural wonders of Alaska, about pain and loss, about the healing power of motherhood, and about discovering her own identity years after the entire world had discovered the beauty of her songs."- summary from Amazon

I absolutely love Jewel as a singer and writer, and was so excited when I heard she was doing a memoir. This was such a wonderful, insightful, introspective and emotional book (with some humor sprinkled throughout, just like she does in her concerts)- very much like a cross between a memoir and self-help book.

FTC: Bought signed hardcover from Jewel's official store. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Calvin by Martine Leavitt

Calvin by Martine Leavitt
"Seventeen-year-old Calvin has always known his fate is linked to the comic book character from Calvin & Hobbes. He was born on the day the last strip was published; his grandpa left a stuffed tiger named Hobbes in his crib; and he even has a best friend named Susie. As a child Calvin played with the toy Hobbes, controlling his every word and action, until Hobbes was washed to death. But now Calvin is a teenager who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, Hobbes is back―as a delusion―and Calvin can't control him. Calvin decides that if he can convince Bill Watterson to draw one final comic strip, showing a normal teenaged Calvin, he will be cured. Calvin and Susie (and Hobbes) set out on a dangerous trek across frozen Lake Erie to track him down."- summary from Amazon

This was such an interesting, quick read and I loved the parallels to Calvin and Hobbies, which is one of my favorite comic strips. This is such a beautifully written book and I enjoyed getting to know Calvin and Susie throughout the course of the book, and seeing where their adventure takes them. The story is emotional but also very funny; I was laughing quite a bit at various parts of the book that are very sarcastic. Calvin is of course an unreliable narrator, due to his schizophrenia diagnosis, which is always intriguing to read and Leavitt does a great job making him a real character just trying his best to understand and deal with his situation, grasping onto whatever straws he can.

FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Love Lies Beneath by Ellen Hopkins

Love Lies Beneath by Ellen Hopkins
"Tara is gorgeous, affluent, and forty. She lives in an impeccably restored Russian Hill mansion in San Francisco. Once a widow, twice divorced, she’s a woman with a past she prefers keeping to herself.

Enter Cavin Lattimore. He’s handsome, kind, charming, and the surgeon assigned to Tara following a ski accident in Lake Tahoe. In the weeks it takes her to recover, Cavin sweeps her off her feet and their relationship blossoms into something Tara had never imagined possible. But then she begins to notice some strange things: a van parked outside her home at odd times, a break-in, threatening text messages and emails. She also starts to notice cracks in Cavin’s seemingly perfect personality, like the suppressed rage his conniving teenage son brings out in him, and the discovery that Cavin hired a detective to investigate her immediately after they met.

Now on crutches and housebound, Tara finds herself dependent on the new man in her life—perhaps too much so. She’s handling rocky relationships with her sister and best friend, who are envious of her glamour and freedom; her prickly brother-in-law, who is intimidated by her wealth and power; and her estranged mother. However perfect Tara’s life appears, things are beginning to get messy."- summary from Amazon

I love Ellen Hopkins' books and I really enjoy her adult books. This was an interesting read and I liked it, but I felt the summary was really setting something else up that I was excited to read about but that concept never came to fruition. The climax takes an unexpected turn, which was intriguing, but the ending just felt off to me. It makes sense in the grand scheme of things, I guess, but I don't know. It was a little bit of a letdown; I was expecting a Misery-type book from the summary and from how Tara meets Cavin, but it didn't go that way at all. So it's not a bad book by any means, but I just felt a bit misled.

Overall, a slightly above-average book from a usually awesome author.

FTC: Borrowed book from local library. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Kiss of Broken Glass by Madeleine Kuderick

Kiss of Broken Glass by Madeleine Kuderick
"In the next seventy-two hours, Kenna may lose everything—her friends, her freedom, and maybe even herself. One kiss of the blade was all it took to get her sent to the psych ward for seventy-two hours. There she will face her addiction to cutting, though the outcome is far from certain.

When fifteen-year-old Kenna is found cutting herself in the school bathroom, she is sent to a facility for mandatory psychiatric watch. There, Kenna meets other kids like her—her roommate, Donya, who’s there for her fifth time; the birdlike Skylar; and Jag, a boy cute enough to make her forget her problems . . . for a moment."- summary from Amazon

This was a quick, but very emotional read and I feel like these sorts of topics really benefit from being written in verse. Keeping the wording tight and unflinching brings the point across so well. Kuderick does a wonderful job showing Kenna's emotional arc over these 72 hours in the psych ward. A lot happens over this short period of time, and Kenna has some ups and downs while locked up as she tries to figure everything out. It's a difficult book to read at times, but Kenna's voice makes it all interesting and page-turning. I'm really excited to read more from Kuderick.

FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Guest Post- Lisa Maxwell

I've got an awesome guest post from author Lisa Maxwell about the 5 best YA books she read last year. Her newest book comes out Feb 2 and I posted the summary for it below, and there's a swag giveaway too from Lisa, so leave a comment telling us what book(s) you loved most from last year on this post by next Monday, Feb 8 at 9pm EST to be entered!

For as long as she can remember, Gwendolyn Allister has never had a place to call home. Her mother believes they are being hunted by brutal monsters, and those delusions have brought them to London, far from the life Gwen had finally started to build for herself. Gwen’s only saving grace is that her best friend, Olivia, is with her for the summer.

But shortly after their arrival, the girls are kidnapped by shadowy creatures and dragged to a world of flesh-eating sea hags and dangerous Fey. And Gwen begins to realize that maybe her mother isn’t so crazy after all…

Gwen discovers that this new world she inhabits is called Neverland, but it’s nothing like the Neverland you’ve heard about in stories. Here, good and evil lose their meaning and memories slip like water through your fingers. As Gwen struggles to remember where she came from and tries to find a way home, she must choose between trusting the charming fairy-tale hero who says all the right things and the captivating pirate who promises to keep her safe.

Caught in the ultimate battle between good and evil, with time running out and her enemies closing in, Gwen is forced to finally face the truths she’s been hiding from all along. But can she save Neverland without losing herself?

Thanks so much for having me on Book Chic! I’m excited to share my five favorite YA reads of 2015 with your readers. Ready?

In no particular order…

I’ve been a fan of Nova Ren Suma’s ever since I read an ARC of IMAGINARY GIRLS back in 2011, but this one is by far my favorite. THE WALLS AROUND US is a compelling page-turner that blends the authors trademark lyricism and magical realism with a plot that keeps you guessing until the very end.

BONE GAP by Laura Ruby
I heard a lot of buzz (no pun intended) about this one on Twitter, so I decided to check it out and, WOW, am I glad I did. I’m a sucker for gorgeous writing and magical realism, and this one has both. I was so happy to see it won the Printz.

I absolutely loved this story of a group of girls out for revenge. It has Allen’s trademark wit and shimmers with a motley group of girls that you want to root for until the very last page.

I really enjoyed Reynold’s WHEN I WAS THE GREATEST, but THE BOY IN THE BLACK SUIT is even better. He has an amazing talent for bringing the everyday trials of his characters to vivid life. Reynolds has this really wonderful combination of minimalism and lyricism in his writing that drew me right in.

SECRETS OF ATTRACTION by Robin Constantine
I absolutely loved this contemporary told in alternating points of view. Constantine does such a great job of bringing these characters to life, and I’m always a sucker for a boy in a band. But it’s more than just the romance that made this book for me—her layered and complex family relationships make this book a winner all around.

Thanks so much for having me and letting me share some of my favorite reads of the last year! I’d love to hear what YOUR readers loved in 2015. Anyone who comments will be entered to win a Swag Pack for UNHOOKED, my upcoming dark Peter Pan retelling!

Lisa Maxwell is the author of Sweet Unrest, Gathering Deep, and Unhooked (Simon Pulse, 2-2-16). When she's not writing books, she's an English professor at a local college. She lives near DC with her very patient husband and two not-so patient boys.
This July, she will be teaching a writing workshop for a week in western Ireland. You can check out more information at http://www.irelandwritertours.com/

Website: www.lisa-maxwell.com
Twitter: @lisamaxwellYA